Next Article in Journal
Scarcity of Drinking Water in Taihu Lake Basin, China: A Case Study of Yixing City
Previous Article in Journal
Statistical and Numerical Assessments of Groundwater Resource Subject to Excessive Pumping: Case Study in Southwest Taiwan
Font Type:
Arial Georgia Verdana
Font Size:
Aa Aa Aa
Line Spacing:
Column Width:

Water Quality Indices: Challenges and Application Limits in the Literature

UMR 1114 Mediterranean Environment and Modelling of Agro-Hydrosystems (EMMAH), National Institute of Agronomic Research (INRA), 84914 CEDEX 9 Avignon, France
UMR 1114 Mediterranean Environment and Modelling of Agro-Hydrosystems (EMMAH), Avignon University (AU), 84914 CEDEX 9 Avignon, France
National Agronomic Institute of Tunisia (INAT), University of Carthage, Tunis 1082, Tunisia
Water and Forests (INRGREF), Hydrology-Water and Soil Conservation, National Research Institute of Rural Engineering, Tunis 2080, Tunisia
Water Researches and Technologies Center of Borj-Cedria (CERTE)-Laboratory of Natural Water Treatment (LabTEN), University of Carthage, Soliman 8020, Tunisia
French Academy of Agriculture (AAF), 75007 Paris, France
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2019, 11(2), 361;
Submission received: 20 December 2018 / Revised: 12 February 2019 / Accepted: 13 February 2019 / Published: 20 February 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Water Resources Management, Policy and Governance)


Since Horton in 1965, many authors have sought to aggregate different variables characterizing the state of water into a single value called Water Quality Index ( W Q I ). This index is intended to facilitate the operational management of water resources and their allocation for different uses. Detailed and operational description of the main W Q I calculations are here reviewed. The review contains: (1) an historical analysis of the evolution of W Q I calculation methods by looking both at the choice of variables, the methods of weighting and aggregating these variables into a final single value; (2) an illustration of the contradictions observed in the final result when, on the same database, the W Q I is calculated by different methods; (3) the significant progress possible via fuzzy logic to define a W Q I adapted to specific water use.

1. Introduction

The increasing population, the expansion of economic activities, and urban sprawl are leading to increased demand for water. The overuse of surface water and groundwater is jeopardizing numerous resources because of the reduction of the available quantities and the deterioration of their quality [1,2].
The deteriorated quality of surface water is becoming a serious issue in many countries [3] and water quality monitoring is among the highest priorities in resources protection policy [4]. Thus, recently developing countries have intensified efforts to evaluate the quality of rivers [5].
Due to spatial and temporal variations in water quality, which often are difficult to interpret, monitoring of the composition of waters is necessary [6].
The assessment of water quality is a prerequisite for the implementation of water protection policies and optimal allocation of different water sources according to their uses. Indeed, surface water has often been evaluated using norms [7]. However, sources of pollution are diverse: urban, industrial and agricultural pollution (diffuse or point source).
The frequency of monitoring and assessment of water quality helps to develop management strategies to control surface water pollution [8] facing to increasing urbanization and anthropogenic pressure on water resources.
As no unique variable can sufficiently describe water quality, it has been evaluated by measuring a series of physico-chemical intensive variables (e.g., the cation or anion concentrations, etc.).
Principal component analysis has been applied to assess the water quality in some studies [6,9], with the aim to identify the factor deteriorating water quality. Some other studies used the weighted score of each variable to propose a water quality index ( W Q I ) [10,11,12,13,14,15]. The main idea in developing a W Q I consists in encompassing a wide range of variables into a single numeric value.
The objective of the W Q I is to classify the waters relative to biological, chemical and physical characteristics defining their possible uses and managing their allocations [16,17,18]. To this end, the analytical variables must be weighted and aggregated.
W Q I s can be considered as models of water quality, i.e., a simplified representation of a complex reality, where variables are selected and methods for weighing and aggregating the variables are defined.
Alves et al. 2014 [19], in their statistical analysis review, found 554 articles dealing with the use of W Q I ’s between 1974 and 2011, of which only 38% are used in India and 9.5% in China.
Abbasi and Abbasi 2012 [20] published a book in which they reviewed water quality indices, and almost all indices existing in the literature were detailed.
In this paper, we propose a critical analysis of the WQI concept. We first present the historical evolution of the W Q I concept, then discuss the limits of its application and stress the contradictions between results obtained. Eventually, we propose new perspectives for designing W Q I adapted to specific water uses.

2. Historical Evolution of W Q I (Water Quality Index) Concept

In all approaches of W Q I calculation, four common steps are used [20]: (i) selection of variables, (ii) transformation, following a common scale, of these variables that have initially different dimensions, (iii) creation of subindices by assignment of a weighing factor to each transformed variable, and (iv) computation of a final index score using the aggregation of subindices.
W Q I s can be classified according to these criteria (Table 1). The detailed principles of calculations for some W Q I cited in this paper are summarized in the appendix.
Horton 1965 [10] initially proposed the W Q I and since then many different methods of W Q I ’s calculation can be found in the literature. Even much earlier, previous studies in mid 1800s used the concept of categorizing waters according to their pollution degrees [39].
Horton fixed the steps to be followed in the development of an index: (i) Selection of quality characteristics on which the index is to be based; (ii) establishment of a rating scale of each characteristic and (iii) weighting of the several characteristics (see Appendix A.1 for calculation details).
Horton selected 10 variables, the most frequently measured to establish his index, which are: sewage treatment, i.e., the percentage of population upstream that is connected to a sanitation facility, dissolved oxygen ( D O ), pH, fecal coliforms ( F C ) count, specific conductance ( E C ), carbon chloroform extract, alkalinity, chloride, temperature and “obvious pollution”. As indicated by Horton, “if additional refinements are desired, secondary indicators may be added”.
Horton selected rating scales for each variable so that the subindex ranges from 0 to 100, where the highest quality is rated 100.
The weighting parameters range from 1 to 4. The final index score is composed of the weighted sum of the sub-indices, divided by the sum of weights and is multiplied by two coefficients m 1 and m 2 , which depend on the temperature and the pollution level of water.
Horton’s index is intended as a means for comparative evaluation of water quality conditions and pollution abatement programs. Thus, an index is basically a comparative tool to evaluate the efforts made to ameliorate the water quality and not really a tool to evaluate water quality absolutely.
Toxicity is explicitly excluded by Horton, on the basis that “under no circumstances should streams contain substances that are injurious to humans, animals and aquatic life. Water containing such substances, therefore, is considered not eligible for index rating.”
Later, Brown et al. 1970 [11] established a new W Q I and selected the nine following variables: D O , F C , pH, Biochemical Oxygen Demand ( B O D ), temperature, total phosphate and nitrate concentrations, turbidity, and total solid content. It is based on the professional opinion of a panel of 142 experts in water quality, who defined the weighting, Q, of each variable and established five classes for water quality: red (very poor), orange (poor), yellow (average), green (good) and blue (excellent). The first index proposed by Brown et al. took the arithmetic form (see Appendix A.2 for calculation details), later, Brown et al. 1973 [13] considered that a geometric aggregation (see Appendix B.1 for calculation details) was better than arithmetic aggregation, being more sensitive when a single variable exceeds the norm [40]. These works were supported by the National Sanitation Foundation, hence the appellation of their index NSFWQI [11,13].
Deininger and Landwehr 1971 [41] proposed their own W Q I that is conceptually similar to Brown et al. [42]’s index, but it contains 12 variables for surface waters and 14 variables for groundwater. Variables used are: D O , F C , pH, B O D , the concentrations of nitrate, phosphate, phenol, dissolved solid, temperature, turbidity, colour and hardness for surface waters, and the same variables plus iron and fluoride concentrations for groundwater.
In Europe, Prati et al. 1971 [12] proposed another index based upon water quality standards (see Appendix A.3 for calculation details). Their idea consists of transforming concentrations of pollutants into levels of pollution. Variables used in this W Q I are: pH, B O D , Chemical Oxygen Demand ( C O D ), D O , concentrations of permanganate, ammonium, nitrate, chloride, iron, manganese, Alkyl Benzene sulphonates, Carbon Chloroform Extract and suspended solids (SS).
Nemerow 1971 [43] proposed three specific-use water quality indices, which, when added together, give a general water quality index. In their approach, they combined the average value and the maximum value of each variable. The method reduces the impact of one variable exceeding largely the permissible limits.
Dinius 1972 [32] proposed another W Q I , based upon Horton’s index, in order to calculate the costs of remediation of water pollution in Alabama (USA). This W Q I defines a decreasing scale from 100 to 0, where the value 100 is assigned to the “perfect” quality water (see Appendix A.4 for calculation details).
Later, Dinius 1987 [33] developed another W Q I using the method of sub-indices introduced by Dalkey 1967 [44] with some modifications [45] (see Appendix B.3 for calculation details).
In India, Bhargava 1983 [14]’s studies introduced a new W Q I where the combination of variables highlights more specifically the pollution load. He defined later the variables to be introduced and specified the W Q I ’s formula according to the water use [46] (see Appendix B.2 for calculation details).
Tiwari and Mishra 1985 [47] proposed another W Q I based on the same principles of those of Horton and Brown et al. but they modified the weighting method by introducing the normative values of the major variables of the water. Logarithm and antilogarithm have been used in their aggregation to keep harmonic the magnitude of sub-indices (see Appendix D.1 for calculation details).
House and Newsome 1989 [48] consider that using a quality index ( W Q I ) allows for quantifying the “good” and “bad” water by reducing the number of data on a range of biological and physico-chemical variables and representing them in a single index simple, reproducible and objective.
In Canada, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) introduced a W Q I developed by the “Water Quality Guidelines Task Group” in the mid 1990s, the idea was inspired from British Columbia Water Quality Index (BCWQI) [49]. The index proposed is non-linear. The concept of Canadian indices is based on the frequency of sampling and measurement, the frequency of values outside the required objectives and the deviation from recommended value of each variable (see Appendix C.1 for calculation details).
In 1996, the Lower Great Miami Watershed Enhancement Program (WEP) in Dayton, Ohio developed a water quality index WEPWQI, which encompasses the chemical, physical and biological variables and an index of the river, which includes water quality variables, flow measurements and water clarity (turbidity). Both indices are expressed on a scale: excellent, good, fair and poor. Pesticide and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon contamination are included in the variables selected to calculate the W Q I , which makes this index differ from the NSFWQI [38].
In the first decade of the 21st century, new indices appeared, simplifying further the existing formulas and better defining the field of the application of the index. For example, Overall Index of Pollution assesses a number of water quality variables based on the measurement and subsequent classification of each of them [50]; the Index of River Water Quality categorizes the variables following three aspects: “organic”, “particulates” and “microorganisms”, calculates a geometric average for each category before aggregation in a single index [17]; the Scatterscore index evaluates the water quality around mining sites in USA and identifies the changes of water quality with time and space [51].
Said et al. 2004 [38] developed a new W Q I , using the logarithmic aggregation. Their idea was to reduce the number of variables to be introduced in the index and to change the aggregation method, while keeping its accuracy. Next, they used a random database to test their index and showed it gives similar results to NSFWQI and WEPWQI (see Appendix D.2 for calculation details).
The most recent method for calculating a W Q I is based upon fuzzy logic and was introduced by Icaga 2007 [52], inspired from Silvert 2000’s [53] work on environment assessment (see Appendix E for calculation details).
Fuzzy logic is a form of many-valued logic that expresses the partial truth between being false or true. It takes any real number between 0 and 1, conversely of the boolean logic where the truth values of variables may only be the integer values 0 or 1 [54].
Thus, subjective and non quantitative data can be used such as odours, which can be left out of the equations because they cannot be adequately measured. The concept of acceptability itself is considered as fuzzy [53].
The assessment by fuzzy logic generally is based on a numerical scale representing water quality. Thus, since the 1990s methods of aggregating water quality variables have been studied and used, particularly in the assessment of environmental quality of waters [55,56].

3. Evidence of Disagreement Between Water Quality Indices Results in Published Works

The initial objective of W Q I was to classify waters into classes by aggregating and weighting different data. However, as shown above, the number of indices proposed in the literature increased so far that the present picture is not clear at all. Twenty indices were reviewed by Steinhart et al. 1982 [57], later Van Helmond and Breukel 1997 [58] demonstrated that at least 30 water quality indices are of common use around the world [45,59]. This is first apparent when using different W Q I s to check a given database. Disagreements appear in three cases: (i) the same W Q I is used, but the limits of classes differ; (ii) different W Q I s are used, on the basis of the same variables, and lead to different classifications; (iii) different W Q I s are used, on the basis of different types or numbers of variables.

4. Disagreement Using the Same W Q I

In India, Sharma et al. [60] used two scales for the same index to evaluate surface waters quality in Ganges river at various locations in Allahabad (Table 2): the scale used by Yadav et al. [61] and the scale proposed by Ramakrishnaiah et al. [62], both to assess groundwater.
The results of Sharma et al. show that the waters of Ganges are of “good” water quality when Ramakrishnaiah et al.’s classification is used (Table 3). However, by reclassifying these waters according to Yadav et al.’s scale, we find that the quality index shifts towards the “poor” quality class, which fits better with the expert’s judgement of the study case (Table 3).

4.1. Different WQIs Lead to Contradiction

Fernández et al. 2004 [59] collected data from Columbian Health Ministry, and applied three methods of calculation of W Q I , using Columbian recommended values and permissible limits of drinking water and wastewater (Table 4).
Despite the use of the same variables, the classification from each index differs, especially in the evaluation for drinking water. However, in the evaluation of wastewater, the values of indices and their classifications are closer. The difference in classification is interpreted by the fact that the indices and the limits of classes were designed for the USA and may not be applicable to Columbia due to different natural and anthropogenic activities [59].
Akkoyunlu and Akiner 2012 [63] used CCMEWQI, OWQI (Oregon WQI, see Appendix C.2 for calculation details) and NSFWQI to evaluate water quality in eight rivers in Turkey; they show a significant difference between the classes of the water quality in the same site but with different indices (Table 5).
This work, referring to the water quality classes defined in the Water Pollution Control Regulation of Turkey for inland surface waters, conclude that CCMEWQI and OWQI cannot be used for evaluation of rivers of Sapanca lake Basin in Turkey. In this particular case, the authors seek to measure the impact of water quality on eutrophication by classifying their waters according to this risk. The CCMEWQI and OWQI indices, having been constructed for a broader pollution assessment, are therefore also sensitive to variables such as F C , a variable which, in principle, does not affect eutrophication but which contributes to degrading the position of water in the water quality classification. Thus, if F C values are strongly high (range 10,000–1,000,000 [63]) and phosphate values are larger than acceptable (up to 1), CCMEWQI and OWQI classify the waters directly in class IV, i.e., “poor quality”, whereas NSFWQI classifies in the “medium” class.
Finally, they selected a subset of variables, linked a priori with the eutrophication risk, including o-phosphate and five others but excluding F C , to define W Q I e u t , aimed to specifically assess the eutrophication risk.

4.2. Modification of the Aggregation Method and of the Nature of Variables

Said et al. [38] proposed a new W Q I , called NewWQI, requiring fewer variables than NSFWQI and WEPWQI and compared these three indices (for the detail of calculation see Appendix D.2). Although the limits of classes of water are different, they observe that a given water is found in the same quality class. For example, a water with an NSFWQI of 77.9 or a WEPWQI of 54, has a New W Q I of 2.22 and in all three cases is classified as “good quality water”.
Lumb et al. [40] compared the US indices with the Canadian index (i.e., CWQI). The selected American indices are: the two indexes AWQI [11], MWQI [13] and Oregon WQI [37] (i.e., OWQI). They computed them on two sets of data based on different numbers of variables, respectively 7 and 10, and raw data from a sampling of 144 stations per year.
The results obtained from their comparison (Table 6) show that the agreement between American W Q I s and CWQI taken as reference, e.g., OWQI is in agreement with CWQI for 77% of stations sampled and 65% of years studied.
It appears clearly that only the comparison between CWQI and OWQI with 10 variables is acceptable. However, between CWQI and the two indices AWQI [11] and MWQI [13], the percentage of similarity is only between 0 and 7%. Concerning the number of variables introduced in calculations, the higher the number of variables in OWQI and MWQI, the more similar the results are to CWQI. However, the result is the reverse for the AWQI. They explained that the differences of classification of waters depended on the four indices by the mode of aggregation of variables and parameters used in calculation of each index. In fact, OWQI and CWQI are indices obtained by non-linear aggregation, while AWQI and MWQI are obtained by linear aggregation.

4.3. Test of Four WQIs Using the Same Dataset

In order to highlight the spatio-temporal contradiction of the water classification using different WQI, four Water Quality Indices were tested. For this context, the logarithmic and arithmetic index proposed by Tiwari and Mishra (TMWQI) [47] (for calculation details, see Appendix D.1), the arithmetic index proposed by Ramakrishnaiah et al. (RWQI) [62] (for calculation details, see Appendix A.5), the harmonic square average index proposed by CCME (CCMEWQI) [64] (for calculation details, see Appendix C.1) and the fuzzy logic WQI proposed by icaga (FWQI) [52] (for calculation details, see Appendix E) were compared using the same dataset.
Data were collected from two different locations in Mejerda watershed in Tunisia and in three different periods: summer 2015, winter 2015 and spring 2016. The 13 variables measured are: pH, EC, TDS, DO, COD, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, bicarbonate, sulphate, chloride and nitrate (Table 7).
The results described in Table 8, confirm the contradiction detected with the application of different WQIs. In the majority of cases, the indices qualify the samples in adjacent water quality classes. However, it is possible to find that the indices characterize them conversely as it was obtained through the analysis of spring sample of station 2.
In fact, these results can be explained by the way of the aggregation of the indices.
Among the four WQIs, only the RWQI depends on the expert opinion. For this reason, it was necessary to check the difference of classification between RWQI and other methods based on standards.
In addition, RWQI and FWQI methods may conduct to stable water quality classification comparing to the other approaches. For the case of CCMEWQI and FWQI, all the calculated subindices are normalized into a common scale, which reduces the effect of the ranges of the measurable variables ( i.e., pH ranges from 0 to 14 in any case; however, the CE ranges from 0 to 1559 μ S / cm in our case). The depth of analysis of each WQI helped to detect that the FWQI approach classifies the variables in the first steps of the calculation but the other methods use all variables as if they belong to the same class. This method of calculation may lead to more accurate results with the application of FWQI.

5. Discussion

The main idea of W Q I is to transform a number of selected variables, which are quantitative and intensive, into a single variable which is qualitative, ordinal and intensive. However, the considered variables have different units and ranges of values. Thus, in the aggregation process, all variables must be turned into subindices expressed on a single scale. In the principle of W Q I calculation, expert opinions are required for the selection of the variables and in the choice of their weights in the aggregation. A weighting coefficient is assigned to each variable based on their potential impacts on water quality. The Figure 1 describes the steps followed generally in the elaboration of a W Q I .
In the literature, the development of water quality indices has undergone two types of evolutions. The first is the consideration of normative progress (e.g., WHO guidelines and standards) on the quality of water that has affected the weighting methods. The second is related to the progression of digital processing that has impacted aggregation methods.

5.1. Choices of Variables

The quality of the water varies according to the spatio-temporal dimensions of its course during its cycle and according to its allocations and uses. The latter determine the choice of water quality variables, the analytical method and the sampling period. The acquisition of water quality data must follow harmonized and well defined protocols both in field sampling methods, monitoring of non-conservative variables such as temperature, pH, oxido-reduction potential… and in the laboratory analyses ( C O D , B O D 5, anions, cations…). Water quality is not defined by a single specific variable, whereas the W Q I , by combining many variables, expresses this quality in a single relevant value, in relationship with the water management objectives, on a scale of value. The Delphi method [44] can be used in the selection of these variables, but it remains dependent on the expert opinion. The consequence is that the final W Q I can be highly variable depending on the panels of experts solicited.
However, the introduction of statistics and multivariate analysis over the last decade now permits a selection of variables while erasing this “opinion” effect, and this increases the robustness of the final result. Bhargava [65], like Icaga [52], proposes that the selection of variables be made according to the water management objectives.
Since the first water quality index [10], the number and nature of the variables introduced into the different calculation proposals range from 5 [38] to 78 [66]. This raises from the outset difficulties in the acquisition of data and of analytical loads of laboratories when regular monitoring of water quality is carried out. Thus, the variables must be carefully selected according to the location of the waters studied and the sampling periodicity [39]. In addition, the number of variables introduced in W Q I affects the final classification of water qualities [40]. One must ask: if few variables are considered in the calculation of W Q I are they the most relevant to define water quality? Furthermore, if other pollutants, limiting this quality, are present in the water, such as heavy metals or xenobiotics, is the conventionally calculated W Q I still relevant? In principle, this is inconsistent with the original concept of W Q I by Horton: “Water containing such substances is considered not eligible for index rating” (see above).
If on the contrary, a large number of variables is considered, it is likely that they are not independent, so that fewer variables can be used to detect any deterioration of water quality.

5.2. The Weighting Methods

Two methods of weighting are generally used. The first is based on the experts’ opinions, either to choose the variables or to assign weights to the variables (e.g., [10,11,13], etc.). The second is based upon water quality guidelines, and the weights are defined as functions of the standards proposed in these guidelines (e.g., [37,47], etc.). In both of the methods, the weighting highly affects the final index obtained and can change significantly when changing the experts panel or when changing the guidelines used.

5.3. The Aggregation Methods

Different ways to aggregate variables have been used. Mainly, they are: the weighted arithmetic average, the weighted geometric average, weighted and unweighted harmonic square average, and more recently, aggregation by using logarithmic functions or founded on fuzzy logic. The first W Q I s were arithmetic averages, then they took a geometric form. The disadvantage of the geometric average with respect to the arithmetic average is that if the value of one of the variables is close to zero, whatever the weighting of the variables, the W Q I will tend to 0. However, a W Q I calculated with a geometric average is less affected by the extreme values of variables than a W Q I calculated by an arithmetic average [67]. Then, in the beginning of the 1990s, the unweighted harmonic square average method was considered an improvement over the weighted arithmetic average and the weighted geometric average. In particular, under these conditions the influence of the values of the variables had a direct impact on the W Q I value [68]. Thus, strong anomalies that would be measured on certain variables during monitoring the water quality, will be observable in the value of the final W Q I . Later, at the end of the 20th century, with the generalisation of computer use, the aggregations took other forms, such as logarithmic functions. However, even in recent literature most of the proposed W Q I s remain based on arithmetic or geometric aggregations.

5.4. Fuzzy Logic

The concept of “acceptability” is seen by some people as fuzzy [53]. It consists of defining sets of acceptable conditions in which quantitative variables are transformed through fuzzy membership functions representing a degree of acceptability (Figure 2). The membership functions allow for defining acceptable upper limit (mf1, e.g., nitrate, FC), lower limit (mf4, e.g., DO), inside interval (mf2 and mf3, e.g., temperature and pH) or outside interval (mf5, e.g., temperature unfavourable to pathogens). Another significant difference between the Icaga index and the others is that it allows for the consideration of subjective data, such as smell or color.
For each variable, the membership function takes a value between 0 and 1 and this value is affected to the corresponding subindex. Then these subindices must be combined. The paper by Icaga is however not explicit on this point: this author uses OR logic operator in a series of tests. This operator ensures the maximum membership to a water quality class. Implicitly, it seems that for assessing the water quality, a hierarchy of variables is considered, and weighting factors, not explicitly given, are used. However, the logic can propose also a minimum membership to a water quality class when using the AND operator [69].
This index is thus innovative because it is defined by critical variables allowed by fuzzy logic. Indeed, once one of them exceeds the allowable limits, the water quality is automatically downgraded.
Bhargava’s index uses implicitly the fuzzy logic, since he defined a constant calculated in function of permissible limits. The subindex used in the aggregation decreases exponentially, which leads to a downgrade of the water quality into “unsuitable” class. This makes it possible to generate numerous intermediate classes of quality between the classes “good” and “bad”, which cannot be defined by any isolated variable. This increases the sensitivity of the method and gives a rigorous framework to evaluation.
In the indices founded on fuzzy logic, experts intervene only at two levels. In the first step, when classes and membership variables are defined, and in the last step, in the defuzzyfication to obtain the output index. In his paper, Icaga did not define the output function, but we propose a simpler way to combine the subindices.
According to the water management objective defined a priori, i.e., drinking water, irrigation etc., we can define weighting factors and consider some quality variables. Then, we can combine the subindices in the following form 1:
O u t p u t = i a i m f i
a i , are coefficients of degree of impact of each membership function m f i on the water quality with the constraint ( i a i = 1 ).

6. Conclusions

Since the development of the first W Q I by Horton (1965), several complex approaches were used to establish more accurate W Q I . Significant changes were noticed with a transformation of continuous quantitative intensive variables into an ordinal qualitative intensive value through either a weighted or unweighed aggregation. Our review of several W Q I developed by experts and scientists, shows that the context is rarely considered, the water allocation objectives, and the way in which it affects weighting factors are poorly determined. Therefore, the weighting should be decided according to the use of water. Accordingly, a Universal W Q I cannot be defined.
In addition, the use of fuzzy logic seems the clearest innovation in the last decade and it is appropriate for an accurate W Q I . This approach allows to evaluate the impact of each variable in the final index of the quality of the water. However, it remains to establish weighting factors for specific water use. These weighting factors must be locally determined.

Author Contributions

F.T., M.K. and S.J. conceived this paper; M.K., F.T. and G.B. investigated the literature and analysed the methods; M.K., F.T., G.B. and M.K. wrote the paper.


This work is conducted as part of Kachroud’s PhD and as such benefited from the support of the Perdiguier Foundation (Grant 2016-2017) of the Avignon University.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest and the funders had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to publish the results.

Appendix A. Weighted Arithmetic Average

Appendix A.1. Horton’s Index

The W Q I calculated by the method described by Horton, is given by the following formula:
W Q I = ( Σ S n × w n Σ w n ) × m 1 × m 2 ,
S n is the subindex assigned to the nth variable;
w n is the relative weight of the nth variable;
m 1 is a temperature correction factor (0.5 if the temperature is below 34 C , otherwise 1);
m 2 is a correction pollution factor (0.5 or 1).
Rating scales (0 to 100 for each variable) were assigned and each variable was then weighed from 1 to 4 according to its relative impact. The more significant variable was given the higher weight [39].

Appendix A.2. First National Sanitation Foundation Water Quality Index (NSFWQI) in 1971

One of the challenges in the concept of Horton was selecting the right variables to include in the W Q I [39].
Brown et al. developed another version of the W Q I with the support of the National Sanitation Foundation hence the name of this index NSFWQI.
Brown’s method is based on the method of Dalkey (Rand Corporation’s Delphi technique) and was done by selecting variables rigorously, the development of a common scale and assigning weights to the variables.
A panel of 142 experts was asked to compare overall water quality using a scale of 1 (highest) to 5 (lowest) for the selected variables.
Variables to be involved in the formula are: D O , Fecal Coliforms, pH, B O D , Nitrates, Phosphates, Temperature, Turbidity and Dissolved Solids. Each variable got a rating calculated using arithmetic mean, then rates have been converted into temporary weights. Next, each temporary weight was then divided by the sum of all the temporary weights to arrive at the final weight.
Table A1 expresses the weight of each variable introduced in the the NSFWQI:
Table A1. Weights for variables included in National Sanitation Foundation Water Quality Index (NSFWQI).
Table A1. Weights for variables included in National Sanitation Foundation Water Quality Index (NSFWQI).
D O 0.17
Faecal Coliforms0.16
B O D 0.11
Dissolved Solids0.07
The NSFWQI next is given by the following formula:
W Q I = i = 1 n q i W i
q i is The quality class for the nth variable;
W i is the relative weight for the nth variable ( W i = 1 ).
The index works well if all variables are independent of each other. Special procedures have been proposed to “pesticides” and “toxic compounds”, if any of them exceeds its assigned upper limit (e.g., 0.1 mg/L for pesticides), the W Q I is automatically recorded as 0.
Brown et al. considered the possibility of using a color spectrum to illustrate the scale of water quality in each region, with the dark red denoting a very poor water quality ( W Q I = 0–10), a strip narrow yellow representing average quality (50 W Q I ) and dark blue ( W Q I = 90–100) representing excellent water quality.

Appendix A.3. Prati’s Pollution Index

As it is explained in the history of W Q I , the idea of Prati et al. was transforming concentrations of pollutants into levels of pollution.
In the first step, water quality was classified vis a vis all the variables based on water quality standards, the classification is explained in Table A2, next, in the second step, one pollutant was taken as reference and its actual value was considered directly as reference index. The third step consists of transforming these values into sub-indices using mathematical equations. This transformation took into account the polluting capacity of the variables related to a selected reference variable [20].
Next, the index was computed as the arithmetic mean of the 13 subindices for groundwater with the following formula:
I = 1 13 i = 1 13 I i
For the surface water, only the first 11 variables are used so the sum is from 1 to 11.
The index ranges from 0 to 14, and was applied by Prati et al. on surface water in Italy.
Table A2. Classification of water quality and subindex functions for the Development of Prati’s Index.
Table A2. Classification of water quality and subindex functions for the Development of Prati’s Index.
VariableExcellentClassification of Water Quality Subindex
pH (units)6.5–8.06.0–8.45.0–9.03.9–10.1<3.9->10.1 I i = 0.4 x 2 + 14 , 0 x < 5 ,
I i = 2 x + 14 , 5 x < 7 ,
I i = x 2 14 x + 49 , 7 x < 9 ,
I i = 0.4 x 2 + 11.2 x 64.4 , 9 x < 14 ,
D O (% Sat)88–11275–12550–15020–200<20 ->200 I i = 0.08 x + 8 , 50 x < 100 ,
I i = 0.08 x 8 , 100 x ,
BOD (ppm)>12.0 I i = 0.66666 x , (x is in mg/L)
COD (ppm)10204080>80 I i = 0.10 x , (x is in mg/L)
Permanganate (mg/L)>20.0 I i = 0.04 x ,
Suspended solids (ppm)2040100278>278 I i = 2 [ 2.1 l o g ( 0.1 x 1 ) ] , (x is in mg/L)
Amonia (ppm)>2.7 I i = 2 [ 2.1 l o g ( 10 x ) ] , (x is in mg/L)
Nitrates (ppm)41236108>108 I i = 2 [ 2.1 l o g ( 0.25 x ) ] , (x is in mg/L)
Chlorides (ppm)50150300620>620 I i = 0.000228 x 2 + 0.0314 x , 0 x < 50 , (x is in mg/L)
I i = 0.0000132 x 2 + 0.0074 x + 0.6 , 50 x < 300 , (x is in mg/L)
I i = 3.75 ( 0.02 x 5.2 ) 0.5 , 300 x , (x is in mg/L)
Iron (ppm)>2.7 I i = 2 [ 2.1 l o g ( 10 x ) ] (x is in mg/L)
Manganese (ppm)>1.0 I i = 2.5 x + 3.9 x 0.5 , 0 x < 0.5 , (x is in mg/L)
I i = 5.25 x 2 + 2.75 , 0.5 x , (x is in mg/L)
Alkyl Benzene sulphonates (ppm)>8.5 I i = 1.2 x + 3.2 x 0.5 , 0 x < 1 , (x is in mg/L)
I i = 0.8 x + 1.2 , 1 x , (x is in mg/L)
Carbon Chloroform Exact (ppm)>8.0 I i = x (x is in mg/L)

Appendix A.4. First Dinius Water Quality Index (DWQI) in 1972

In the 1970s, many indices were developed, so in 1972, Dinius developed his first W Q I from a review of published scientific literature, so his index was calculated as the weighted sum of the subindices, like Horton’s index, and the additive version of the NSFWQI, he chose 11 variables to be introduced into his index (Table A3).
Table A3. Subindex Functions of Dinius’ Index.
Table A3. Subindex Functions of Dinius’ Index.
Subindex NumberVariableSubindex
1 D O (% Sat) I 1 = x
2BOD (mg/L) I 2 = 107 x 0.642
3Total Coliforms (MPN/100 mL) I 3 = 100 x 0.3
4 F C (MPN/100 mL) I 4 = 100 ( 5 x ) 0.3
5Specific Conductance (μS/cm) I 5 = 535 x 0.3565
6Chlorides (mg/L) I 6 = 125.8 x 0.207
7Hardness ( C a C O 3 , ppm) I 7 = 10 1.974 0.00132 x
8Alkalinity ( C a C O 3 , ppm) I 8 = 108 x 0.178
9pH (units) I 9 = 10 0.2335 + 0.44 x , x < 6.7
I 10 = 100 , 6.7 x 7.58
I 11 = 10 4.22 0.293 x , x > 7.58
10temperature/ C I 12 = 4 ( t a t s ) + 112 ,
t a = actual temp, t s = standard temp
11Colour (C units) I 13 = 128 x 0.288 ,
Next the W Q I is computed as:
W Q I = 1 21 i = 1 11 I i w i
I i is the subindex function of the pollutant variable;
W i is the unit weight of the pollutant variable whose value ranges from 0 to 1;
The weights ranged from 0.5 to 5 on a basic scale of importance and the sum of these weights was 21, which is the denominator in Dinius formula.

Appendix A.5. Method of Ramakrishaniah [62] (RWQI)

RWQI is an arithmetic average approach proposed by [62], where the weighting is calculated according to experts’ opinions and depending on the importance of the parameter.
The RWQI is given by the following formula:
R W Q I = Σ w i q i
q i is the quality class for the nth variable;
w i is the relative weight of the nth variable;
In the first step, q n is calculated according to the following formula:
q n = V n V i d e a l S n V i d e a l × 100 for pH and D O
q n = V n S n × 100 for other variables
In the second step, the relative weight ( W i ) is calculated using the following equation:
W i = w i Σ w i
W i is a temporary weight of each variable.
From RWQI values, waters are classified into five categories (Table A4).
Table A4. The RWQI classification.
Table A4. The RWQI classification.
RWQIQuality Class
200–300Very poor

Appendix B. Weighted Geometric Average

Appendix B.1. Second National Sanitation Foundation Water Quality Index (NSFWQI) in 1973

Brown et al. proposed another formula for calculating the W Q I after finding that the multiplicative formula is better suited with the opinions of experts, this formula is given by:
W Q I = i = 1 n q i W i ,
q i is the quality class for the nth variable; W i is the relative weight for the nth variable( W i = 1 ).
Brown et al. kept the same scale of classification of water quality.

Appendix B.2. Bhargava Method

Bhargava used the concept of W Q I evaluation cited by Brown et al. to classify the quality of water for drinking purposes.
Bhargava identified four groups of variables. Each group contained sets of one type settings [14].
Coliforms were included in the first group, which represents the bacteriological quality of drinking water. Heavy metals and toxic substances were included in the second group. The third group includes variables that cause physical effects such as odour, color and turbidity. Organic and inorganic substances such as sulphate and chloride, etc. have been included in the fourth group [70].
The simplified model for W Q I Bhargava is given by:
W Q I = [ i = 1 n f i ] 1 n × 100
where f i is the value of the sensitivity function of the i-th variable includes the effect of the concentration and weight of the variable i in use varies from 0 to 1 and n is the number of variables taken into account.
Bhargava has established a maximum level of allowable contaminants ( C M C L ) for each variable used in his formula by referring to the US Environmental Protection Agency [20].
The C M C L is used later to define a parameter C to calculate the sensitivity function f i .
If the concentration of the i-th variable is inferior or equal C M C L , i , f i takes automatically the value 1. Otherwise, f i is given by the formulas expressed in Table A5.
Table A5. Subindex Functions of Bhargava’s Index.
Table A5. Subindex Functions of Bhargava’s Index.
VariablesSubindex Function
Group I: Coliform organisms f 1 = e x p [ 16 ( C 1 ) ]
Group II: Heavy metals, other toxicant, etc.. f 2 = e x p [ 4 ( C 1 ) ]
Group III: Physical variables f 3 = e x p [ 2 ( C 1 ) ]
Group IV: Organic and inorganic intoxicant substances f 4 = e x p [ 2 ( C 1 ) ]
The method of Bhargava is only derived from the method of Brown and his index classify the waters into a scale ranging from 0 for extremely polluted to 100 for absolutely unpolluted water.

Appendix B.3. Second Dinius Water Quality Index

In 1987, Dinius developed a multiplicative DWQI using Delphi method in the choice and the range of variable to be included in his new formula.
The DWQI was developed using Delphi method, and it was designed for particular uses of the water which are: recreation, fish, shellfish, public supply, agriculture and industry. Twelve variables were used in this index: D O , 5-day B O D , coliform count, E-coli count, pH, alkalinity, hardness, chloride, specific conductivity, temperature, color and nitrate [33].
Variables’ weights were assigned using Delphi method and subindices’ functions were combined using additive aggregation function expressed in Table A6.
Table A6. Subindex Functions of the 1987 Dinius’ Index.
Table A6. Subindex Functions of the 1987 Dinius’ Index.
D O (% Sat)0.109 0.82 D O + 10.56
B O D 5 (mg/L at 20 C )0.097 108 ( B O D ) 0.3494
Coliforms (MPN-Coli/100 mL)0.090 136 ( C O L I ) 0.1311
E.coli (E-coli/100 mL)0.116 106 ( E C O L I ) 0.1286
Alkalinity (ppm C a C O 3 )0.063 110 ( A L K ) 0.1342
Hardness (ppm C a C O 3 )0.065 552 ( H ) 04488
Chloride (mg/L, fresh water)0.074 391 ( C L ) 0.3480
Specific Conductance ( μ hos/cm at 20 C )0.079 506 ( S C ) 0.3315
pH (units)0.77 10 ( 0.6803 + 0.1856 p H )
10 ( 3.65 0.2216 p H )
Nitrates (mg/L)0.090 125 ( N ) 0.2718
Temperature/ C )0.077 10 ( 2.004 0.0382 ( t a t s ) )
Colour0.063 127 ( C ) 0.2394
The new index of Dinius had the following form:
W Q I = i = 1 12 I i w i
where I i is the subindex of pollutant variable (between 0 and 100), w i is the unit weight of pollutant variable (between 0 and 1), n is the number of pollutant variables.
As other water quality indexes, the DWQI value ranges from 0 to 100.

Appendix C. Weighted and Unweighted Harmonic Square Average

Appendix C.1. Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment Water Quality Index (CCMEWQI)

The index of the quality of Canadian waters is taken from the formula of British Columbia Water quality index (BCWQI) found in 1990 [49,71] and was used as the basis for identifying the public priority actions of the Manitoba department of Environment [72].
Conceptually, CCME WQI is based on a combination of three factors determined in CCME.
Factor 1 (F1) represents the scope, which assesses the extent and non-compliance with water quality directive in the interest period.
Factor 2 (F2) represents the mean frequency and number of times tested or observed value was out of acceptable limits or standards.
Factor 3 (F3) represents the magnitude of the deviation or values whose objectives are not achieved.
F 1 = ( Number of failed variables Total number of variables ) × 100
F 2 = ( Number of failed tests Total number of tests ) × 100
F 3 = ( n s e 0.01 n s e + 0.01 )
The n s e variable is expressed as:
n s e = i = 1 n d e p a r t u r e i Number of tests
The collective amount by which individual tests are out of compliance is calculated by summing the departures of individual tests from their objectives and dividing by the total number of tests. For the cases in which the test value must not exceed the objective:
d e p a r t u r e i = ( Failed Test i O b j e c t i v e j ) 1
For the cases in which the test value must not fall below the objective:
d e p a r t u r e i = ( O b j e c t i v e j Failed Test i ) 1
For the cases in which the objective is zero:
d e p a r t u r e i = Failed Test i
The value of the index is calculated using the following formulation:
C C M E W Q I = 100 F 1 2 + F 2 2 + F 3 2 1.732
The vector length can reach 100 2 + 100 2 + 100 2 = 30000 = 173.2 , so division by the factor 1.732 is only to adjust CCMEWQI into 0 to 100 scale. The above formula produces a value of CCMEWQI between 0 and 100 and provides a digital value to the state of the water quality. Zero means very poor quality of water, while a value close to 100 means excellent water quality. The assignment of CCME WQI values to different categories is a somewhat subjective process and also requires expert judgment and expectations of public water quality. The water quality is classified into five categories with descriptions as shown in Table A7.
Table A7. Classification of water quality according to Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) method [64].
Table A7. Classification of water quality according to Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) method [64].
WQIQuality ClassDescription
<44PoorWater quality is almost always threatened or impaired; conditions usually.
45–64BadWater quality is usually protected but occasionally threatened or impaired; conditions sometimes depart from natural or desirable levels.
65–79MarginalWater quality is usually protected but occasionally threatened or impaired; conditions sometimes depart from natural or desirable levels.
80–94GoodWater quality is protected with only a minor degree of threat or impairment; conditions rarely depart from natural or desirable levels.
95–100ExcellentWater quality is protected with a virtual absence of threat or impairment; conditions very close to natural or pristine levels

Appendix C.2. Oregon Water Quality Index (OWQI)

The W Q I of Oregon, developed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) in the late 1970s and updated several times since then, is another frequently used W Q I in the public domain [37].
However, the original OWQI was abandoned in 1983 because of the tremendous data and resources needed for the calculation and presentation of results.
With the advances in computer technology, improved tools display and data visualization, allowing a better understanding of water quality, the OWQI was updated in 1994 by refining the original sub-indices adding temperature and a total phosphorus subindex thus improving aggregation calculation.
The original OWQI was modeled after the NSFWQI where Delphi method was used for the selection of variables [73].
Most of the indicators of the quality of water used in the United States are based on the method of Brown, so the OWQI, except in the concept of this index, incorporates the measures of the eight variables of water quality (temperature, D O , B O D , pH, ammonia + nitrate nitrogen, total phosphate, total solids, and F C ).
The water-quality variables were classified according to the impairment categories, i.e., oxygen depletion, eutrophication or potential for excess biological growth, dissolved substances and health hazards [20].
In 1994, OWQI took another shape after the work of Dojlido et al. and the calculation formula became:
W Q I = [ 1 n i = 1 n q i 2 ] 0.5
where q i is the quality class for the nth variable.
Water quality classes’ limits in terms of OWQI scores are different from those based on NSFWQI, the new classes are: excellent: 91–100; good: 85–90; just: 80–84; poor: 60–70; and very poor: 0–59.

Appendix D. Logarithmic Aggregations

Appendix D.1. The WQI Proposed by Tiwari and Mishra (TMWQI)

The W Q I calculated by the method described by Tiwari and Mishra is similar to the basic method of Horton. Except in this method, the logarithm and antilogarithm is used, and it is only for mathematical purposes, indeed the logarithm reduces the magnitude of the chemical variables and the antilogarithm is used after, to broaden and make visible the classification scale. The W Q I is calculated by the following formula:
T M W Q I = A n t i l o g Σ w n l o g q n
q n is the quality class for the nth variable;
W n is the relative weight of the nth variable;
In the first step, q n is calculated according to the following formula [74]:
q n = V n V i d e a l S n V i d e a l × 100 for pH and D O
q n = V n S n × 100 for other variables
V n is the value of variable in sample n;
S n = value of variable recommended by guidelines;
V i d e a l = the ideal value which is considered by some researchers, who applied this method like Tripathy and Sahu, 7.0 for pH and 14.6 for D O .
In the second step, the relative weight ( W n ) is calculated using the following equation:,
W n = K S n
K is a proportionality constant given by:
K = 1 i = 1 n 1 S i .
From T M W Q I values, waters are classified into five categories (Table A8).
Table A8. Classification of water according to Tiwari and Mishra.
Table A8. Classification of water according to Tiwari and Mishra.
TMWQIQuality Class

Appendix D.2. New Water Quality Index Proposed by Said et al.

The idea of Said et al. was to calculate the W Q I into two steps, in the first one, water quality variables were ranked according to their significance. In the second step, many forms were tested to give to D O the highest weight followed by fecal coliform and total phosphorus, also to keep the index in a simple equation. Finally, the logarithm was used to give small numbers that are easily used by the management decision-makers, the stake-holders, and the general public.
The variables included on the new W Q I are: D O , total phosphates, fecal coliform, turbidity, and specific conductivity, and were chosen according their powers on the effect on water conditions.
Said et al. felt that turbidity and specific conductance have linear effects, which have lesser influence on the values of the variables, in the index formula [20].
The subindices were eliminated in the formula of the new W Q I , and there is no need to standardize the variable, which made the calculation more simplified. The formula of the New W Q I is given by:
N e w W Q I = l o g [ ( D O ) 1.5 ( 3.8 ) T P × ( T U R B ) 0.15 × ( 15 ) F C 10000 + 0.14 × ( S C ) 0.5 ]
D O is the Dissolved Oxygen (% oxygen saturation);
T U R B is the Turbidity (Nephelometric turbidity units [NTU]);
T P is the total phosphates (mg/L);
F C is the fecal coliform bacteria (counts/100 mL);
S C is the specific conductivity in (MS/cm at 25 C );
The index was designed to range from 0 to 3. The maximum or ideal value of this index is 3. In very good waters the value of this index will be 3. From 3 to 2, the water is acceptable, and less than 2 is marginal and remediation, if one or two variables have deteriorated, the value of this index will be less than 2.
If most of the variables have deteriorated, the index is less than 1, which means that water quality is poor.

Appendix E. Fuzzy Logics (FWQI)

According to Icaga six steps are needed to develop a fuzzy logics index, for a conventional classification containing four classes, as follows:
  • determination of the quality classes for the measured variables;
  • arrangement of the variables according to their classes into the four groups;
  • application of membership functions ( m f ) to standardize the natural measurement scales of the quality variable into a measurement of the quality degree (membership grade). In this step, four membership functions are used.
    m f i is the membership function of the observed value i depending on the limits given in Table A9 and Table A10. The reviewed membership functions from Icaga’s paper are defined as below:
    m f 1 = 1 for x < a 1 [ x a b 1 a ] for a x b 1 0 for otherwise m f 2 = x a b 1 a for a x b 1 1 for b 1 x b 2 1 [ x b 2 c 1 b 2 ] for b 2 x c 1 0 for otherwise m f 3 = x b 2 c 1 b 2 for b 2 x c 1 1 for c 1 x c 2 1 [ x c 2 d c 2 ] for c 2 x d 0 for otherwise m f 4 = x c 2 d c 2 for c 2 x d 1 for d < x 0 for otherwise
  • four rule bases are successively used:
    if Q V i 1 = I V or Q V i 2 = I V or or Q V i n = I then O u t p u t = I if Q V j 1 = I I I or Q V j 2 = I I I or or Q V j n = I I then O u t p u t = I I if Q V k = I I or Q V k 2 = I I or or Q V k n = I I I then O u t p u t = I I I if Q V l 1 = I or Q V l 2 = I or or Q V l n = I V then O u t p u t = I V
    where Q V i is the quality variable; I, I I , I I I , I V are the quality classes in conventional classification; N is the number of quality variables. In the rule bases the “or” operators are used to obtain maximum values.
  • Using the fuzzy algorithm: In fuzzy algorithm, the Mamdani [75] approach is used. Fuzzy inferences of the groups are determined using grades of membership functions of the variables;
  • Defuzzification of the inferences to obtain an index whose value ranges (0;100) interval using Centroid methods, which calculate the center of gravity of the output function.
Table A9. Quality classes for physical and inorganic chemical variables of inside water resources [52].
Table A9. Quality classes for physical and inorganic chemical variables of inside water resources [52].
VariableLimits Of Water Quality Classes
temperature (t) ( C )252530> 30
pH6.5–8.56.5–8.56–9<6 or >9
DO ( g   m 3 )863<3
Oxygen Saturation (OS) (%)907040<40
Chloride (Cl) ( g   m 3 )25200400>400
Sulphate (SO42−) ( g   m 3 )200200400>400
Ammonia (NH3)( g   m 3 )0.212>2
Nitrite (NO2) ( g   m 3 )0.0020.010.05>0.05
Nitrate (NO3) ( g   m 3 )51020>20
Total phosphorus ( g   m 3 )>0.65
TDS ( g   m 3 )5001,5005,000<5000
Color ( P t -co unit)550300>300
Sodium (Na+) ( g   m 3 )125125250>250
Table A10. The limits of the membership functions [52].
Table A10. The limits of the membership functions [52].
The Variables of the Membership Functions
b 1 a b 2 b c 1 a c 2 b
T (C)17.522.527.532.5
pH >
pH < 7.55.756.256.757.5
DO ( g   m 3 ) c 974.51.5
Chloride ( g   m 3 )050100300500
Sulphates ( g   m 3 )50150250350450
Ammonia ( g   m 3 )
Nitrite ( g   m 3 )00.0040.030.07
Nitrate ( g   m 3 )2.57.51525
TDS ( g   m 3 )0100032506250
Color (Pt-co unit)027.5175425
Sodium ( g   m 3 )31.2593.75156.3218.8281.3
Output membership function12.537.562.587.5
a First upper corner of the trapezoidal membership function; b Second upper corner of the trapezoidal membership function; c The number membership functions in reverse order.


  1. Massoud, M. Assessment of water quality along a recreational section of the Damour River in Lebanon using the water quality index. Environ. Monit. Assess. 2012, 184, 4151–4160. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  2. Sahoo, M.M.; Patra, K.; Khatua, K. Inference of Water Quality Index Using ANFIA and PCA. Aquat. Procedia 2015, 4, 1099–1106. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  3. Witek, Z.; Jarosiewicz, A. Long-term changes in nutrient status of river water. Pol. J. Environ. Stud. 2009, 18, 1177–1184. [Google Scholar]
  4. Simeonov, V.; Einax, J.; Stanimirova, I.; Kraft, J. Environmetric modeling and interpretation of river water monitoring data. Anal. Bioanal. Chem. 2002, 374, 898–905. [Google Scholar]
  5. Kannel, P.R.; Lee, S.; Lee, Y.S.; Kanel, S.R.; Khan, S.P. Application of water quality indices and dissolved oxygen as indicators for river water classification and urban impact assessment. Environ. Monit. Assess. 2007, 132, 93–110. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  6. Kazi, T.; Arain, M.; Jamali, M.K.; Jalbani, N.; Afridi, H.; Sarfraz, R.; Baig, J.; Shah, A.Q. Assessment of water quality of polluted lake using multivariate statistical techniques: A case study. Ecotoxicol. Environ. Saf. 2009, 72, 301–309. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  7. Rosemond, S.; Duro, D.; Dubé, M. Comparative analysis of regional water quality in Canada using the Water Quality Index. Environ. Monit. Assess. 2009, 156, 223–240. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  8. Yao, S.; Xue, B.; Kong, D. Chronology and nutrients change in recent sediment of Taihu Lake, lower Changjiang River Basin, East China. Chin. Geogr. Sci. 2010, 20, 202–208. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  9. Boyacioglu, H. Surface water quality assessment using factor analysis. Water SA 2006, 32, 389–393. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  10. Horton, R. An Index Number System for Rating Water Quality. J. Water Pollut. Control Fed. 1965, 37, 300–306. [Google Scholar]
  11. Brown, R.M.; McClelland, N.I.; Deininger, R.A.; Tozer, R.G. A Water Quality Index: Do We Dare? Water Sew. Works 1970, 117, 339–343. [Google Scholar]
  12. Prati, L.; Pavanello, R.; Pesarin, F. Assessment of surface water quality by a single index of pollution. Water Res. 1971, 5, 741–751. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  13. Brown, R.M.; McClelland, N.I.; Deininger, R.A.; Landwehr, J. Validating the WQI. In Proceedings of the National Meeting of American Society of Civil Engineers on Water Resources Engineering, Washington, DC, USA, 29 January–2 February 1973. [Google Scholar]
  14. Bhargava, D.S. Use of water quality index for river classification and zoning of Ganga River. Environ. Pollut. Ser. B Chem. Phys. 1983, 6, 51–67. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  15. Haase, J.; Stringuini, M.; Silva, M.; Rodrigues, M.; Koch, S. Qualidade das aguas superficiais do litoral norte e médio do Rio Grande do Sul. In Proceedings of the 22 Congresso brasileiro de engenharia sanitaria e ambiental, Joinville, Brazil, 14–19 September 2003; Volume 17, pp. 1–33. [Google Scholar]
  16. Boyacioglu, H. Development of a water quality index based on a European classification scheme. Water SA 2007, 33. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  17. Liou, S.M.; Lo, S.L.; Wang, S.H. A Generalized Water Quality Index for Taiwan. Environ. Monit. Assess. 2004, 96, 35–52. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  18. Khalil, B.; Ouarda, T.; St-Hilaire, A. Estimation of water quality characteristics at ungauged sites using artificial neural networks and canonical correlation analysis. J. Hydrol. 2011, 405, 277–287. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  19. Alves, M.T.R.; Teresa, F.B.; Nabout, J.C. A global scientific literature of research on water quality indices: Trends, biases and future directions. Acta Limnol. Brasiliensia 2014, 26, 245–253. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  20. Abbasi, T.; Abbasi, S. Water Quality Indices; Elsevier: Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2012. [Google Scholar]
  21. Singh, D. Studies on the water quality index of some major rivers of Pune, Maharashtra. Proc. Acad. Environ. Biol. 1992, 1, 61–66. [Google Scholar]
  22. Pesce, S.F.; Wunderlin, D.A. Use of water quality indices to verify the impact of Cordoba City (Argentina) on Suquia River. Water Res. 2000, 34, 2915–2926. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  23. Sedeño-Díaz, J.E.; López-López, E. Water quality in the Río Lerma, Mexico: An overview of the last quarter of the twentieth century. Water Resour. Manag. 2007, 21, 1797–1812. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  24. Fataei, E.; Seyyedsharifi, A.; Seiiedsafaviyan, T.; Nasrollahzadeh, S. Water quality assessment based on WQI and CWQI Indexes in Balikhlou River, Iran. J. Basic Appl. Sci. Res. 2013, 3, 263–269. [Google Scholar]
  25. Wills, M.; Irvine, K.N. Application of the national sanitation foundation water quality index in Cazenovia Creek, NY, pilot watershed management project. Middle States Geogr. 1996, 1996, 95–104. [Google Scholar]
  26. Soltan, M. Evaluation of ground water quality in dakhla oasis (Egyptian Western Desert). Environ. Monit. Assess. 1999, 57, 157–168. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  27. Bordalo, A.A.; Teixeira, R.; Wiebe, W.J. A water quality index applied to an international shared river basin: the case of the Douro River. Environ. Manag. 2006, 38, 910–920. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  28. Abrahão, R.; Carvalho, M.; da Silva Jr, W.; Machado, T.; Gadelha, C.; Hernandez, M. Use of index analysis to evaluate the water quality of a stream receiving industrial effluents. Water SA 2007, 33. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  29. Akoteyon, I.; Omotayo, A.; Soladoye, O.; Olaoye, H. Determination of water quality index and suitability of urban river for municipal water supply in Lagos-Nigeria. Eur. J. Sci. Res. 2011, 54, 263–271. [Google Scholar]
  30. Shokuhi, R.; Hosinzadeh, E.; Roshanaei, G.; Alipour, M.; Hoseinzadeh, S. Evaluation of Aydughmush dam reservoir water quality by National Sanitation Foundation Water Quality Index (NSF-WQI) and water quality parameter changes. Iran. J. Health Environ. 2012, 4, 439–450. [Google Scholar]
  31. Parmar, K.; Parmar, V. Evaluation of water quality index for drinking purposes of river Subernarekha in Singhbhum District. Int. J. Environ. Sci. 2010, 1, 77. [Google Scholar]
  32. Dinius, S. Social accounting system for evaluating water resources. Water Resour. Res. 1972, 8, 1159–1177. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  33. Dinius, S.H. Design of an index of water quality. J. Am. Water Resour. Assoc. 1987, 23, 833–843. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  34. Khan, A.A.; Tobin, A.; Paterson, R.; Khan, H.; Warren, R. Application of CCME procedures for deriving site-specific water quality guidelines for the CCME Water Quality Index. Water Qual. Res. J. Can. 2005, 40, 448–456. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  35. Lumb, A.; Halliwell, D.; Sharma, T. Application of CCME Water Quality Index to monitor water quality: A case study of the Mackenzie River basin, Canada. Environ. Monit. Assess. 2006, 113, 411–429. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  36. Hamlat, A.; Tidjani, A.E.B.; Yebdri, D.; Errih, M.; Guidoum, A. Water quality analysis of reservoirs within Western Algeria catchment areas using water quality index CCME WQI. J. Water Supply Res. Technol.-Aqua 2014, 63, 311–324. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  37. Cude, C.G. Oregon water quality index: A tool for evaluating water quality management effectiveness. J. Am. Water Resour. Assoc. 2001. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  38. Said, A.; Stevens, D.K.; Sehlke, G. An Innovative Index for Evaluating Water Quality in Streams. Environ Manag. 2004, 34, 406–414. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  39. Lumb, A.; Sharma, T.; Bibeault, J.F. A review of genesis and evolution of water quality index (WQI) and some future directions. Water Qual. Expo. Health 2011, 3, 11–24. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  40. Lumb, A.; Sharma, T.; Bibeault, J.F.; Klawunn, P. A comparative study of USA and Canadian water quality index models. Water Qual. Expo. Health 2011, 3, 203–216. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  41. Deininger, R.; Landwehr, J. A Water Quality Index for Public Water Supplies; Unpublished Report; School of Public Health, University of Michigan: Ann Arbor, MI, USA, 1971. [Google Scholar]
  42. Brown, R.M.; McClelland, N.I.; Deininger, R.A.; O’Connor, M.F. A water quality index—Crashing the psychological barrier. In Indicators of Environmental Quality; Springer: Boston, MA, USA, 1972; pp. 173–182. [Google Scholar]
  43. Nemerow, N.L.; Sumitomo, H. Benefits of Water Quality Enhancement (Part A: Pollution Index for Benefits Analysis); Water pollution control research series N.16110 DAJ 12/70; Environmental Protection Agency, Water Quality Office: New York, NY, USA, 1970.
  44. Dalkey, N.C. Delphi; Technical Report; Rand Corporation: Santa Monica, CA, USA, 1967. [Google Scholar]
  45. Bharti, N.; Katyal, D. Water quality indices used for surface water vulnerability assessment. Int. J. Environ. Sci. 2011, 2, 154. [Google Scholar]
  46. Bhargava, D.S. Expression for drinking water supply standards. J. Environ. Eng. 1985, 111, 304–316. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  47. Tiwari, T.; Mishra, M. Apreliminary assignment of water quality index of major Indian rivers. Indian J. Environ. Prot. 1985, 276–279. [Google Scholar]
  48. House, M.; Newsome, D. Water quality indices for the management of surface water quality. Water Sci. Technol. 1989, 21, 1137–1148. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  49. Rocchini, R.; Swain, L. The British Columbia Water Quality Index; Water Quality Branch, EP Department, BC, Ministry of Environment, Land and Park: Victoria, BC, Canada, 1995; Volume 13. [Google Scholar]
  50. Sargaonkar, A.; Deshpande, V. Development of an overall index of pollution for surface water based on a general classification scheme in Indian context. Environ. Monit. Assess. 2003, 89, 43–67. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  51. Kim, A.; Cardone, C. Scatterscore: A reconnaissance method to evaluate changes in water quality. Environ. Monit. Assess. 2005, 111, 277–295. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  52. Icaga, Y. Fuzzy evaluation of water quality classification. Ecol. Indic. 2007, 7, 710–718. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  53. Silvert, W. Fuzzy indices of environmental conditions. Ecol. Model. 2000, 130, 111–119. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  54. Zadeh, L.A. Information and control. Fuzzy Sets 1965, 8, 338–353. [Google Scholar]
  55. Ludwig, B.; Tulbure, I. Contributions to an aggregated environmental pollution index. In Proceedings of the 31st Intersociety Energy Conversion Engineering Conference, Washington, DC, USA, 11–16 August 1996; Volume 3, pp. 2144–2149. [Google Scholar]
  56. Liou, Y.T.; Lo, S.L. A fuzzy index model for trophic status evaluation of reservoir waters. Water Res. 2005, 39, 1415–1423. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  57. Steinhart, C.E.; Schierow, L.J.; Sonzogni, W.C. An evironmental quality index for the great lakes. J. Am. Water Resour. Assoc. 1982, 18, 1025–1031. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  58. Van Helmond, C.; Breukel, R. Physico-Chemical water quality indices. In Monitoring, Tailor-Made II, Proceedings of an International Workshop on Information Strategies in Water Management; Nunspeet, The Netherlands, 1997; pp. 475–479. [Google Scholar]
  59. Fernández, N.; Ramírez, A.; Solano, F. Physico-chemical water quality indices—A compative review. Bistua Revista de la Facultad de Ciencias Basicas 2004, 2, 19–30. [Google Scholar]
  60. Sharma, P.; Meher, P.K.; Kumar, A.; Gautam, Y.P.; Mishra, K.P. Changes in water quality index of Ganges river at different locations in Allahabad. Sustain. Water Qual. Ecol. 2014, 3–4, 67–76. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  61. Yadav, A.K.; Khan, P.; Sharma, S.K. Water Quality Index Assessment of Groundwater in Todaraisingh Tehsil of Rajasthan State, India-A Greener Approach. J. Chem. 2010, 7, 428–432. [Google Scholar]
  62. Ramakrishnaiah, C.; Sadashivaiah, C.; Ranganna, G. Assessment of water quality index for the groundwater in Tumkur Taluk, Karnataka State, India. J. Chem. 2009, 6, 523–530. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  63. Akkoyunlu, A.; Akiner, M.E. Pollution evaluation in streams using water quality indices: A case study from Turkey’s Sapanca Lake Basin. Ecol. Indic. 2012, 18, 501–511. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  64. CCME. Canadian Water Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life: CCME Water Quality Index 1.0; Technical Report; Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment: Quebec city, QC, Canada, 2001. [Google Scholar]
  65. Bhargava, D. A light-penetration model for the rivers Ganga and Yamuna. Int. J. Dev. Technol. 1983, 1, 199–205. [Google Scholar]
  66. Dee, N.; Baker, J.; Drobny, N.; Duke, K.; Whitman, I.; Fahringer, D. An environmental evaluation system for water resource planning. Water Resour. Res. 1973, 9, 523–535. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  67. Mophin-Kani, K.; Murugesan, A. Evaluation and classification of water quality of Perennial River Tamirabarani through aggregation of water quality index. Int. J. Environ. Prot. 2011, 1, 24–33. [Google Scholar]
  68. Dojlido, J.; Raniszewski, J.; Woyciechowska, J. Water quality index–application for rivers in Vistula river basin in Poland. Water Sci. Technol. 1994, 30, 57–64. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  69. Kachroud, M. Contribution aux outils d’aide à la décision pour la gestion des eaux: Application au bassin versant de la Mejerda-Tunisie. Ph.D. Thesis, Université d’Avignon, Avignon, France, 2018. [Google Scholar]
  70. Bhargava, D. Most rapid BOD assimilation in Ganga and Yamuna rivers. J. Environ. Eng. 1983, 109, 174–188. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  71. Zandbergen, P.A.; Hall, K.J. Analysis of the British Columbia water quality index for watershed managers: A case study of two small watersheds. Water Qual. Res. J. Can. 1998, 33. [Google Scholar]
  72. SOE. Moving Toward Sustainable Development Reporting: State of The Environment; Technical Report; Manitoba Environment: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, 1997.
  73. McClelland, N.I. Water Quality Index Application in the Kansas River Basin; Technical Report EPA-907/9-74-001; Environmental Protection Agency: Kansas City, MO, USA, 1974.
  74. Tripathy, J.; Sahu, K. Seasonal Hydrochemistry of Groundwater in the Barrier Spit System of the Chilika Lagoon, India. J. Environ. Hydrol. 2005, 13, 1–9. [Google Scholar]
  75. Mamdani, E.H. Application of fuzzy algorithms for control of simple dynamic plant. Proc. Inst. Electr. Eng. 1974, 121, 1585–1588. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
Figure 1. Common steps on W Q I conception.
Figure 1. Common steps on W Q I conception.
Water 11 00361 g001
Figure 2. Membership functions in the fuzzy logic.
Figure 2. Membership functions in the fuzzy logic.
Water 11 00361 g002
Table 1. Structure, aggregation formula and number of variables in Water Quality Index (WQI) and some references using them.
Table 1. Structure, aggregation formula and number of variables in Water Quality Index (WQI) and some references using them.
WQINo. of VariablesStructureAggregationExample of Studies Using WQI
Ref.Application Area
Horton10FormulasWeighted[21]Pune, Maharashtra, India
geometrical average[22]Suquia River, Argentina
[23]Río Lerma basin, Mexico
[24]Balikhlou River, Iran
NSFWQI 9DiagramsWeighted[25]Cazenovia creek, USA
geometrical average[26]Dakhla Oasis, Egypt
[27]Dourou River, Portugal
[29]Owo River, Nigeria
[30]Aydughmush Dam, Iran
BhargavaAccordingFormulasWeighted[31]Subernarekha, India
to the use product
geometrical average
CCMEWQI Up to 47FormulasHarmonic[34]Atlantic region, Canada
Square Sum[35]Mackenzie River basin, Canada
harmonic Square Mean
New W Q I 5FormulaLogarithmic
Said & al. [38]
: National Sanitation Foundation; Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment.
Table 2. Different Water Quality Scales based on the same W Q I used by Sharma et al. [60].
Table 2. Different Water Quality Scales based on the same W Q I used by Sharma et al. [60].
Water Quality ClassWQI
Yadav et al.Ramakrishnaiah et al.
Very poor76–100200–300
Table 3. Water Quality Indices and Water Quality at different locations [60].
Table 3. Water Quality Indices and Water Quality at different locations [60].
LocationsWQIWater Quality
Yadav et al.Ramakrishnaiah et al.
Ram Chaura Ghat90.98Very PoorGood
Rasoolabad95.43Very PoorGood
Daraganj94.43Very PoorGood
Prior to Sangam86.20Very PoorGood
Sangam96.61Very PoorGood
Beyond Sangam93.29Very PoorGood
Table 4. Comparison between water quality indices using data from Colombia [59].
Table 4. Comparison between water quality indices using data from Colombia [59].
Drinking waterValue85.1724.9876.78
ClassificationGoodVery PoorPolluted
ClassificationBadVery PoorPolluted
Table 5. Comparison of different Water Quality Indices for the rivers of Sapanca Lake Basin [63].
Table 5. Comparison of different Water Quality Indices for the rivers of Sapanca Lake Basin [63].
RiverMedian WQI Score and Quality
Arifiye34Poor13Very Poor52Medium
Balikhane45Marginal24Very Poor70Medium
Istanbul49Marginal26Very Poor74Medium
Keci40Poor19Very Poor69Medium
Sarp35Poor13Very Poor57Medium
Table 6. Measures for comparison between Canadian (CWQI) and US-based W Q I s [40].
Table 6. Measures for comparison between Canadian (CWQI) and US-based W Q I s [40].
7 Variables10 Variables7 Variables10 Variables7 Variables10 Variables
Stations matched (%)16777003
Station year matched (%)15657004
Table 7. Analytical results of the two samples.
Table 7. Analytical results of the two samples.
Station 1Station 2
pH (pH-unit)7.797.537.907.477.298.30
CE (μS/cm)1559.001025.001170.001552.001110.00510.00
TDS ( mg / L )1527.001000.00680.001519.001065.00289.00
DO ( mg / L )4.664.252.700.703.200.70
Calcium ( mg / L )134.3069.80125.15154.05192.65148.80
Magnesium ( mg / L )36.1054.5022.8025.3033.8019.90
Sodium ( mg / L )118.38379.22601.20151.04136.45150.30
Potassium ( mg / L )1.838.229.152.873.042.13
Bicarbonates ( mg / L )169.58256.81316.59507.22549.06597.80
Sulphates ( mg / L )158.57158.57170.7883.6983.6997.15
Chloride ( mg / L )234.80469.60512.00237.16337.16220.15
Nitrates ( mg / L )12.353.915.400.223.1924.00
COD ( mgO 2 / L )19.7030.0016.0035.40120.0015.75
Table 8. WQI values and classifications.
Table 8. WQI values and classifications.

Share and Cite

MDPI and ACS Style

Kachroud, M.; Trolard, F.; Kefi, M.; Jebari, S.; Bourrié, G. Water Quality Indices: Challenges and Application Limits in the Literature. Water 2019, 11, 361.

AMA Style

Kachroud M, Trolard F, Kefi M, Jebari S, Bourrié G. Water Quality Indices: Challenges and Application Limits in the Literature. Water. 2019; 11(2):361.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Kachroud, Moez, Fabienne Trolard, Mohamed Kefi, Sihem Jebari, and Guilhem Bourrié. 2019. "Water Quality Indices: Challenges and Application Limits in the Literature" Water 11, no. 2: 361.

Note that from the first issue of 2016, this journal uses article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Article Metrics

Back to TopTop